Last season, Towson stumbled its way to a 4-5 record through the non-Colonial Athletic Association portion of its schedule before righting the ship and winning the league tournament to qualify for the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2007.
This year, the Tigers are in a vastly different – and stronger – position.
No. 20 Towson is 6-2, which is the program's best start since 2001, when that squad opened the season with 10 wins in 12 games. No one is equating what the current group is doing with that 2001 team, but coach Shawn Nadelen said the positive mark is an encouraging sign for the Tigers.
"It's good to know that we've been able to win six games," he said on Wednesday. "I think we've had some good games in those wins and some not-so-good games in those wins. I think our focus is making sure that we get better every day in practice and that we're preparing ourselves as well as for our opponents and making sure that we're doing what we can to be a better lacrosse team in terms of effort and the way we execute."
The record won't mean much when Towson opens conference play against Delaware on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Johnny Unitas Stadium. But senior attackman Thomas DeNapoli pointed out that the team is sitting in a good spot to meet its league rivals.
"The whole year, we talk about CAA play being the most important part," he said. "I think we've done a good job of positioning ourselves so far. It will definitely come down to this home stretch. We need to get a couple of wins, make the CAA tournament, and hopefully get the automatic qualifier [to the NCAA tournament]."
No. 13 Penn State (4-3) is not eligible to play in the conference tournament due to its move to the Big Ten, but Nadelen knows that teams like No. 12 Massachusetts, Hofstra and the Blue Hens won't exactly give the Tigers a warm and fuzzy welcome.
"I feel that there's a different level of intensity just because the schools are more familiar with each other and there's more intensity brought to the field," he said. "… When you play a team every year that is in your conference and those teams are competing for a conference championship, it's a little bit different of an atmosphere. You're protecting your own turf.
"We're excited about getting into conference play. I think the strong competition we played in non-conference play will prepare us for the conference, and we know that the intensity is going to be that much more and that our level of play needs to increase that much more going into Saturday's game."